REVIEW: BEAUTY ON THE PISTE (Above The Stag) ★★★★★

img_8334nThe first thing I thought, upon leaving the Above the Stag Theatre after watching the self-proclaimed adult pantomime BEAUTY ON THE PISTE, was that this is not a production you should take your dear old mother to. Then I swiftly changed my mind. You should DEFINITELY take your dear old mother to it because she’d be laughing along, even louder than you are.

Adapted from the classic Disney story of Beauty and the Beast, this cleverly written take finds the audience up in the snowy mountains of Les De Nice (or as the Mabel the fairy calls it, “Les Dennis”) in Switzerland, introduced to the supremely arrogant (yet beautifully cheekboned) Sebastian, who wants to overturn the privately owned business and transform Les De Nice into an upmarket ski resort. Local business owner Morag Trump and her son Mac, who run the Trump Tea Rooms, together with Beau and his father Gustav, try desperately to decide whether or not to sell. However, the business concerns are put aside as the characters become captives of the Beast, held prisoner in his enchanted castle. It falls to Beau to break the Beast’s mysterious curse and assist in helping his…’rose’ (clue: it wasn’t a rose)… standing to attention again, or else he will perish. Will Beau and the Beast fall madly in love and fight their way through a sea of innuendo to break the curse?

Well, I had more “I can’t cope” moments (involving snorting my mulled wine and choking on my own tears) than I can ever recall having in a show! There were too many one-liners to keep up with, the humour was so sharp and smart; the script was well-paced and barred any chance of a dull moment.

Politically and culturally relevant references were littered throughout, expressed with a tongue-in-cheek style, made for an intelligent and light-hearted social take on a modern-day adult panto. This has been quite a year for world events, so this is a refreshing and poignant addition to the classic panto structure.

All of the beloved institutions were still there: the Dame, the “it’s behind you!” lines, the glitz and the glamour, but this production is undeniably special. Audience participation was in high supply and the cast were excellent at eliciting energy from us. Morag was fantastic as our Dame, and Heidi the enchanted household item (an adaptation of Mrs Potts) brought us endless laughter. The performers were extremely well cast and a fantastic creative team have put their minds together on this production.

My one comment is that the show would benefit from attaching microphones to the members of the cast who had singing numbers; although the theatre is small the projection could have been more powerful, and at times the voices, although of excellent technical standard, needed that extra ‘oomph’ to fill the space (especially for those of us at the back).

Nevertheless, the spellbinding set made this performance a feast for the eyes; sliding walls and swift, well-rehearsed set changes made for an impressive visual throughout. Several painstakingly long hours have clearly been spent perfecting the classic ‘panto’ feel, and it adds to the joyous atmosphere that the cast emulated.

A highly original adaptation of the classic, this panto is not for the faint-hearted, but promises a joy-filled extravaganza of song, dance and outrageous giggles that will have you chuckling for days afterwards.

Reviewed by Laura Evans

BEAUTY ON THE PISTE plays at Above The Stage until 12 January 2016 but tickets are completly sold out